How to be a Successful Opportunistic Expat
Since the onset of the financial crisis rising unemployment has become a global issue.
For some people the search for lucrative and fulfilling employment opportunities has resulted in them upping sticks and beginning a new life overseas.
Although many of those who choose this option line up a job (or at least a load of interviews) before boarding the plane, an increasing number of would-be-expats trust their lot to chance and begin the job hunt only after touching down on foreign soil.
The people who take this path have become known as ‘opportunistic expats’.
Although being an opportunistic expat requires a certain ‘devil-may-care’ attitude, some forward planning is essential if you hope to be successful.
So here are our top tips for making the opportunistic expat lifestyle work for you.
Form some kind of plan before you go, in fact the more planning the better! Long before you start packing you should know what the job market is like in the area you intend to move to, what kinds of opportunities are available and what skills you should be marketing if you hope to stand out.
Have as much knowledge of the country you’re moving to as possible. Read up on the area, get an idea of its layout, look into local customs and laws, learn about employment regulations – even find out a bit about the nation’s history. Doing this should help to limit initial culture shock after your arrival and make you feel more at ease when applying for work. If possible learn some language basics before you go so you can greet potential bosses in their native tongue, letting them know that you’re willing to make an effort to fit in with their company.
Before you pack up and trek halfway across the world, arrange some temporary accommodation, covering you for at least a week after your arrival. That way you won’t have the stress of looking for somewhere to stay as well as looking for work during your first few days. However, DO NOT tie yourself in a long term rental contract at first – if things with the job search don’t work out you’ll want to be able to extricate yourself easily!
Go prepared – Once you’re overseas and on the job hunt, the chances of you securing a position massively increase if you turn up to interviews well prepared. Before you move ensure that you have copies of all your qualifications (check to see how transferable they are first) as well as solid references from previous bosses and professional/personal connections. Make sure you can competently answer the question: ‘Why should I hire you over a local candidate?’ And practice your interview technique as much as possible so that even if your job search has gone on for longer than you expected you won’t come across as desperate (even if you are!)
Any opportunistic expat should ensure that they have enough savings to support themselves for three months or so before setting off to try their luck. You might end up securing employment within a week, or the process could take much longer than you anticipated. Either way, having savings to tide you over will stop the panic from setting in if you haven’t managed to line up an interview within your first few days overseas.
While every opportunistic expat hopes that they’ll have found gainful employment within minutes of arriving in a new nation, it just isn’t how it works for the majority. There are going to be stressful days, worrying days, days where you wonder what the hell you’ve done – but don’t let yourself get despondent and hold on to the bravery that saw you jump on the plane in the first place. Pick yourself up after every set back, keep trying and you’ll get there before you know it.
That being said, every aspiring opportunistic expat should also know when to admit defeat. Give yourself a minimum limit your funds can get to. If they start to approach that level and you still haven’t found work it might be time to rethink your plan and consider other options. After giving yourself a pat on the back for your courage and effort, focus on everything you’ve learnt from your time as an opportunistic expat and consider how you can apply it to your life once you return home.